“The trouble with the Christian life is that it’s so doggone daily.” – Anonymous
Anyone can be a decently focused person for a day. But a lifetime? Here in America, Jesus would call most of us seeds sown among thorns. “. . . the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” – Matthew 13:22
In the past 12 months, I’ve worked more than my fair share of 60-70 hour workweeks. Not every week was like that. But the majority have been.
On top of that, I have a 3-year old who just started sleeping through the night for the first time in her life. So, my brain is now programmed to wake up 3,857,395 times per night for no reason. The result?
I feel worn out.
Yet Christ demands radical, heart-level obedience every day. No matter what.
When I’m tired, I don’t feel like working hard. I want a bit of, “Me time.” I don’t always by nature want a bit of, “God time.”
That is the evil programmed into us. The Bible calls it our “sinful flesh,” (Romans 8:3) or in places, “earthly nature.” (Colossians 3:5)
We tend toward selfish desires. And part of what makes those selfish desires evil is that they fail to satisfy us.
The Apostle Paul mentions the “deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) I believe this is part of that. Sin promises us good but gives us dung. And when we choose sin, we reject the ultimate joy of pure life in Christ.
The Apostle Peter also tells us to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
Lions only make noise when they feel confident that they have their prey within reach. If you watch hunting videos, you’ll hear the goose-bump inducing croak of a lion just before it charges out of hiding in the African brush.
That’s our adversary. Just because he roars doesn’t mean he isn’t sneaky. He will use our earthly nature to get us to choose “me time” over “God time” every time.
The truth is, we are far too weak and miserable to allow this to happen.
God wants to completely satisfy us with himself. He offers us the infinite goodness of his own person.
Why should we let hollow sin get in the way of that? What do evil daydreams about our own puffed up sense of self-glory have on looking at the Creator of the universe and feeling his purifying love wash over us?
This is why we must stay awake and aware of ourselves and our adversary. We must prioritize daily, thoughtful self-reflection about whether our thoughts and intentions are making Christ happy. Because our eternal (and momentary!) satisfaction hinges on it.
I’ve been very convicted about this lately. In fact, my wife and I have talked about it seriously on multiple occasions in the past couple weeks.
My go-to “brain-numbing” activity is video games.
When everything’s quiet, my hand reaches for my Nintendo Switch console. When the buzz of boredom makes my legs restless, I long for some Luigi’s Mansion or Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
But when we look back at that verse in 1 Peter, he’s not just talking about avoiding getting drunk. He says, “Stay sober-minded.”
What’s the point of getting drunk? To numb unpleasant feelings. Right?
So, what is different about me numbing myself with video games? It puts me in an altered state of mind, where I get irritable if my daughter interrupts me, and I don’t notice the passage of time.
I frequently look up from an intense section in a game and think, “There’s no way two hours just went by.”
When I pour my weekends into video games, it’s like dumping my life into a black hole.
When I come out the other side, I wonder what happened, and where it all went, and why I feel terrible.
I believe it’s because I haven’t remained sober-minded. I let the enemy devour my time. The most precious resource I have.
Don’t get me wrong—I feel confident that it’s perfectly fine to play games with friends. And there are times when fun and enjoyable “mind-less” pass-times are rejuvenating.
But when it becomes a habitual numbing-agent, that’s different.
So… for the entire month of February, and probably longer (I haven’t decided yet), I decided that I’m not playing a single video game. Period.
So far, I’ve felt some extraordinary boredom. I’ve also felt the mental cloud I’ve operated under pass away. I feel lighter, I feel… well… more spiritually sober. And joy-filled.
Because in my spare time, my go-to time-sink has now shifted toward speaking to God in prayer. Or reading a good book. Or cracking open the Bible. Or sitting and chatting with my 3-year old.
I’m annoyed I didn’t do this earlier.
God made us to enjoy our lives. But he also warns us to not feed our fleshly desires. Because he knows we too easily become imprisoned by them. So, I believe that as long as I am careful to remain sober-minded, I can enjoy video games in moderation, and honor him through it all.
But what’s your “numbing agent”? And how can you make sure you’re free from its grip, and push yourself toward fuller dependence on God for your emotional needs?
Lord—satisfy us with yourself. Be our everything! You are our love and obsession. We trust you have saved us from slavery to our own earthly desires. Give us freedom in your Spirit! Purify and strengthen us in you, so that we can enjoy ALL of life in purity and holiness. We choose to be more than content with you, and want every thought we have to honor and please you. Burn away everything else inside of us. Set us free from guilt and shame, and help us to walk in your Light, fully exposed to you, fully known, yet confident that we are pure because you have made us pure. Not just pure in an imaginary sense, but pure in our actual lifestyles and desires. We believe you have the power to set us free from every evil! Thank you for our freedom. Thank you for your grace. Be pleased with our lives. Amen.
Choose one big time-sink that you know is not helping you honor Christ, and remove it from your life for one week. Is it social media? Netflix? Whatever it is, make a commitment, and tell someone else about it so that they can hold you accountable. Don’t think “I need to forever get rid of this thing in my life,” (unless it’s an obvious sin). Just think, “I’m fasting this thing for one week to enjoy more time with Christ.”